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Sound Law & order a national imperative
There is a general weakening of supervision in police which should not be put up with – considering the procedural law that lays down that every senior officer in the field would be deemed to be the Station House Officer of all police stations in his or her jurisdiction
It is a matter of deep satisfaction for all citizens that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has amidst his enormous responsibilities of handling international relations, issues of economic development and the challenges of national security, found time to address matters pertaining to national cohesion and internal stability at the strategic level and take the initiative of spelling out measures that would help to get the states and the Centre on the same grid on non-political aspects of governance in the interest of national unity and in furtherance of 'cooperative federalism'.
Addressing a conference of Chief Ministers, Home Secretaries, DGPs, heads of CPOs and CPMFs organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs at Surajkund in Haryana on October 28 for an exchange of ideas on technological advancement for policing in the country, Prime Minister Modi invited attention to the need for sending out the message that the police have the same duty towards the citizens across the country and considering adoption of a common uniform by all states to achieve the objective of 'one nation one police uniform.'
Just as IPS uniform is same everywhere, officers and men of the state police could wear the same uniform with the insignia of the state on their shoulders. The BPR&D has already worked out well- researched designs of uniform catering to weather conditions and physical comfort and carrying the institutional sign POLICE printed at the back to distinguish the officer from any other liveried personnel.
The functional stamp of a common uniform upgrades the police as a Constitutional entity performing perhaps the most important duty of the State of protecting the citizens against lawless elements. A common uniform fits in with the philosophy of policing in a democratic country.
The Constitution of India rightly confers the responsibility of maintaining law & order and taking legal action against law breakers on the states because this function is best performed closer to the ground through decentralisation. There cannot be differing standards in the performance of the police however, and just as citizens can move to and work in any part of India they also look forward to being served by the police machinery of India at the same level of efficiency everywhere.
Uniformity of appearance does not detract from the administrative control on the police or the autonomy about deploying the personnel that was totally vested in the states. The Prime Minister's idea about the uniformity of the dress for policemen reflects his high level thinking on crucial matters of national importance. To the extent police implements the sovereign function of preventing violence and investigating a cognizable crime, any initiative that helps to improve that function is in national interest as law & order management like security is above party politics.
Police is a state subject but failures on law & order front can damage the nation's image and even the country's economic interests by discouraging investment – particularly by foreign business leaders. The Centre has stakes in efficient policing all across the nation since crime was also a borderless phenomenon. There should be a provision for voluntary inter-state deputations of police officers other than those belonging to IPS, too and centrally sponsored joint training programmes should be organised for officers and men drawn from different states.
Most important, however, is the role of the Centre in getting UPSC to draw a panel of IPS officers in consultation with the concerned states for appointment of DGPs - a procedure recommended by the Supreme Court as well.
The Apex court did this in 2017 while recording its disapproval of the practice of state governments appointing an officer as Officiating DGP out of political vested interest. If the DGP is professionally upright and strong enough to guide the state police this will send the right message down the police hierarchy and improve the working of police stations which exist at the cutting edge of police-public interaction.
Equally important is the part Centre has to play in punishing an IPS officer on the ground of gross dereliction of duty. The state government likewise should not hesitate in dismissing a rogue policeman under Article 311 of the Constitution against whom there was credible information of deliberate wrong doings. Faith of law-abiding citizens in police can be a strong promoter of national ethos and unity.
The security environ of the country is currently marked by an enhanced threat to our internal security from external sources primarily from the Sino-Pak axis – an alliance between India's two prime adversaries who also happened to be its neighbours.
Both Pakistan and China have a certain potential for fishing in our troubled waters at home and are already collaborating against India in intensifying cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere by raising terror modules and also using social media as an instrument of combat including 'information warfare'.
The upshot of all of this is the rising importance of local Intelligence and the emergence of the role of state Police as the first responder to threats to internal security. The function of policing thus goes beyond the maintenance of law & order to the safeguarding of national security and it is, therefore, crucial that Central agencies have complete functional coordination with state and district police and act as a guiding hand for the latter in matters of handling security.
In the fitness of things, the funding of police 'modernisation' schemes by the Centre should be devoted to the strengthening of police communications, mobility in identified 'sensitive' districts and special training of selected officers of police stations in counter-Intelligence.
A reason why police has generally not performed as well as it should have in the areas of crime prevention and maintenance of order is the politician-bureaucrat-criminal nexus that is continuing to operate at many places and in many ways.
The Central Vigilance Commission which now has a functional link with state vigilance organisations as a national guide would do well to scan the state police more closely for any stark professional failures on the latter's part to stand up to this unholy alliance of people in governance. There is a general weakening of supervision in police which should not be put up with – considering the procedural law that lays down that every senior officer in the field would be deemed to be the Station House Officer of all police stations in his or her jurisdiction. One feature of the functioning of Army that police need to emulate is to hold the supervisory officer – in a case of serious dereliction of duty by a policeman – implicitly responsible too unless cleared by the enquiry.
The power that law gives to even a police constable makes the function of supervision doubly important in Indian conditions. Centre's legitimate authority of keeping track of the performance of IPS officers even after their allocation to states, needs to be exercised more effectively to get the leadership of the state Police to measure up to the responsibility of exercising close supervision down the line.
In the final analysis Prime Minister Modi's brilliant idea shared by him at the Home Minister's Chintan Shivir ( Ideation camp) at Surajkund will serve the purpose of promoting national unity, ensuring uniformity of governance throughout the country and putting the concept of 'cooperative federalism' on a deeper footing.
With so much of responsibility of safeguarding internal security falling on the shoulders of police, it would be advisable to deliberate on this important aspect of policing at the annual conference of DGPs chaired by Director IB and evolve a consensus also on 'one nation, one police uniform' that would enhance the pan-India spirit needed for this new role of policemen across the country.